Reigning World and European champions Spain, featuring seven Barça players -four of whom started tonight’s game – are safely through to the knockout stage. However, Vicente del Bosque’s talented squad had to wait until the 88th minute to clinch a place in the final eight. Cesc lobbed a precise pass over the Croatian defence to find Barça team-mate Iniesta. He squared to Navas, who fired home into an empty net. Until that point, the goalless score line meant that a goal from Croatian could see them through and send Spain crashing out of the competition. Spain will now face either England, Ukraine or France in the next round.
Defensive first half
Both Vicente Del Bosque and Slaven Bilic opted for a cautious approach and a 0-0 draw combined with a draw between Italy and Ireland would send Spain and Croatian through. Cassano put Italy ahead in the 36th minute in the other Group C game but in Gdansk neither Spain nor Italy looked like scoring. Any ideas of the two sides settling for a 2-2 draw looked unlikely to say the least.
Croatia go for goal
Things changed for the better in the second half as Croatia pushed for the goal they now needed. Bilic made three attacking substitutions with Perisic, Jelavic and Eduardo, and his ambition almost paid off as a Rakitic header tested Casillas. In the 73rd minute, del Bosque brought on Cesc in place of Silva and the Barça man immediately made his mark. With Croatia facing elimination and Spain far from safe, the midfielder produced a sublime lob to send Iniesta clear with space to set up Navas for an easy tap in. Spain finish as Group C winners.